The Mysterious Bookshop

Smirnova, Natalia, & Goumen, Julia, Moscow Noir

As literary agents Smirnova and Goumen note in their introduction to this excellent entry in Akashic's noir series, “A noir tradition does not yet really exist in Russia.” Still, they have managed to find 14 authors whose dark take on humanity would be familiar to the likes of Cornell Woolrich and Jim Thompson. Story after story offers haunting images: a husband interrupts his bludgeoning murder of his wife to sing their daughter back to sleep (Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's “In the New Development”); a cop eats an apple that fell from the shaven head of a drunken deputy chief detective just shot to death, who'd been playing William Tell (Alexander Anuchkin's “Field of a Thousand Corpses”). In Anna Starobinets's “The Mercy Bus,” a taut tale with a wicked bite, a con man poses as one of Moscow's walking wounded to make his getaway from a charity ball he engineered in order to rip off its patrons. This volume's strength bodes well for a second anthology from these able editors showcasing Russian talents.